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Marina Zurkow and James Schmitz


The Breath Eaters (special edition), 2023

Two channel diptych

Custom software animation (color, silent)

Data sources: Global Energy Monitor, NASA Earth, NOAA Data

This newly produced version of The Breath Eaters (diptych) offers two varying views of the Earth using data. The work addresses human impact on earth systems, fire management practices, and the planetary poetics of wind. The left-hand monitor displays the current state of carbon particulate pollutants from wildfires as well as fossil fuel and biomass power plants. It uses real-time data from NASA and NOAA to visualize the ways in which emissions are spread globally through the atmosphere.

The screen on the right presents a counter perspective — a speculative world engaged in mitigating climate chaos. It uses NOAA's Global Forecast System wind data and NASA’s Vegetation Index (NDVI), which gives us the global location and density of vegetation over the course of the year. The vegetation data was used to sample possible locations of fires in the artists’ speculative scenario. According to fire management research, the fires' sizes and intensities diminished through traditional techniques like controlled burns aimed at renewal and regeneration.

Special thanks to Karen C. Short, Research Ecologist at USDA Forest Service, for research guidance


Marina Zurkow and James Schmitz have been collaborating since 2021 on data-driven, generative artworks about the environment. Their first work, Hudson Follies, was commissioned for Google's Pier 57 lobby. Zurkow is a media artist focused on "wicked" environmental problems, whose work has been exhibited internationally. Schmitz is an artist and technologist; he is the author of the Python Processing framework py5. They are both based in New York state.

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